Responsible mapping

We’re seeing a lot of maps now about coronavirus. There are a lot counts, rates, and a little bit of panic involved. Kenneth Field provides guidance on mapping this data responsibly:

We’ll focus just on data for China in the following series of maps. They are designed to look like small maps you might find on a news media web site. Relatively simple, and with just the basic facts. Many of the issues I’ll note are equally applicable whether you’re making a small static map or an interactive web map.

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BellTopo Sans is is a free typeface based on maps from 1800s

While working on maps inspired by USGS maps from the 1800s, Sarah Bell made a typeface to match:

While making my own USGS-inspired maps, my search never returned the exact type of font I was looking for. The fruitless search was serendipitous however, because it provided the push to make my own. It was designed for map labels that are no larger than 80-100pt, but usually much smaller. I decided to name it BellTopo Sans with the plan to create a serif version.

She made it available here.

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The role of cartography in early global explorations

For Lapham’s Quarterly, Elizabeth Della Zazzera turns back the clock to maps used for navigation, starting with the 1300s and through 1720:

From the fifteenth to the eighteenth century, European powers sent voyagers to lands farther and farther away from the continent in an expansionist period we now call the Age of Exploration. These journeys were propelled by religious fervor and fierce colonial sentiment—and an overall desire for new trade routes. They would not have been possible without the rise of modern cartography. While geographically accurate maps had existed before, the Age of Exploration saw the emergence of a sustained tradition of topographic surveying. Maps were being made specifically to guide travelers. Technology progressed quickly through the centuries, helping explorers and traders find their way to new imperial outposts—at least sometimes. On other occasions, hiccups in cartographic reasoning led their users even farther astray.

I particularly liked the part where in fourteen hundred ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue — and made miscalculations because he misread the units on a map and ended up in the wrong part of the world.

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When geolocation makes everyone think you stole their phone

People show up unannounced at John and his mother Ann’s home in South Africa, looking for stolen property, but John and Ann didn’t steal anything. For Gizmodo, Kashmir Hill investigates another case of IP address and geolocation mistaken for exactness:

John and Ann’s problems weren’t necessarily caused by one bad actor, but by the interaction of a bunch of careless decisions that cascaded through a series of databases. The NGA provides a free database with no regulations on its use. MaxMind takes some coordinates from that database and slaps IP addresses on them. Then IP mapping sites, as well as phone carriers offering “find my phone” services, display those coordinates on maps as distinct and exact locations, ignoring the “accuracy radius” that is supposed to accompany them.

The victims of theft, police officers, private investigators, the Hawks (South Africa’s FBI), and even foreign government investigators showed up mistakenly at John and Ann’s door, and none of them ever tried to figure out why.

Remember when we thought Kansas had unusually high porn views per capita?

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Skewed mental map of the world’s geography

The maps that we imagine as we think about locations around the world often don’t match up with reality. Betsy Mason for National Geographic explains the discrepancy. On the misalignment of Europe:

Europe is also often placed much farther south on mental maps than it really is, appearing directly across the Atlantic from the contiguous United States. But it actually lines up better with Canada: Paris is further north than Montreal, Barcelona is at a similar latitude as Chicago, and Venice lines up with Portland, Oregon.

…and the world as we knew it was never the same again.

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Cartography Playground

Map-making is a tricky business with many variables to consider that can directly change how someone interprets the land and people in a location. The Cartography Playground is a simple site to test these variables interactively. Learn about algorithms, mess with appearance, and toggle through representations.

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Comparing Google Maps and Apple Maps Over a Year

Google collects much of their own data to construct their maps, whereas Apple sources most of their data externally. This difference, coupled with varying cartography that changes over time, means an interesting contrast between the two map services. Justin O’Beirne took monthly screenshots for a year to look at the differences more closely.

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Glow map

Firefly maps

John Nelson has a knack for making maps that glow, where the base map serves as a dark backdrop and the data of interest sort of lights up. In a recent talk, he calls it Firefly Cartography and explains its use in presentation and in education.

A firefly map is to regular thematic maps the way that a lightsaber is to swords. Thematic layers that look like they are etched with white hot plasma tend to draw eyeballs and provide a sense of intensity that solid Boolean symbology just doesn’t offer. I think we are wired to notice and note things that glow. Whether it is marking time by the sun or moon, staring into embers, watching for nighttime travelers by the open flame they carry, or noting the churned phosphorescence of the sea, we historically have done well to note the things that glow.

I suspect firefly charts would be equally expressive.

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Vintage cartography and geography documentary, from 1961

This is too good not to watch. It’s a 1961 documentary on cartography and geography from the United States Air Force. Watch in all its vintage glory below.(You might want to turn down the volume during the first half minute.)

[via @mapdragons]

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Maps to understand tennis

Maps for tennis

Damien Saunder, a cartographer at ESRI, likes to use mapping methods to evaluate tennis player patterns and tendencies.

When I look at tennis, I see it moving on a grid. I see space and x/y coordinates [position] and I see z values [height], and I see trajectories of the balls, and space opening up. I started GameSetMap to try and educate people of the value of mapping where people are on the court, storing the data in a GIS, and visualizing it.

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